The best residential internet in PNG: 2018 Edition

In this article, I give my own opinion as well as present survey results from 77 expats gathered from a Google Form I posted on the Expats of POM fb page over the weekend. Hope it helps.

What are your technology options?

There are two typical ways to get internet in Port Moresby. The first is via a SIM card in a 4G dongle or hotspotting your phone. The second is via a microwave dish you mount on your balcony or roof that points to your ISP’s repeater station somewhere nearby.

Why is it like that? Long story short, no one wants to build an underground fibre network because you will inevitably get land owners asking for compensation or someone digging it up by accident or on purpose (maybe Digicel will though! link). The fibre that is in the ground, or on poles, is unreliable and extremely expensive. ADSL copper is old, degraded and unreliable (easily the cheapest way to get data though; link)

My other recent article goes into far more detail about how the internet works in PNG.

SIM cards are still the most popular with only 1/3 of people committing to a dish for internet.

Ok so most use SIM and dish, what are the key differences?

4G SIMs

ProsCons
Quick setup; you literally buy a SIM and a dongle, register the SIM on the spot, put money on your account, buy a data bundle and you are surfing.Data bundles; if your bundle expires or runs out you start using your credit at a premium rate.
More convenient; there are plenty of mobile towers around Moresby.Expiry dates; a few telcos are moving away from 30 day expiries on their bundles forcing you to recharge more often.
Mobile; you can take the dongle or your phone wherever you go.No auto recharge; you have to keep on monitoring your data usage and manually topping up.
Speed; as long as all the links are working and there is no congestion, you can get up to 10 or 15Mbps. There are no speed caps on 4G, you get what is available.Unpredictable data usage; whilst I am on the side of the ISPs until proven otherwise, there are many stories of data “disappearing” on 4G accounts.
Poor wifi coverage in your house; a typical dongle will not penetrate walls very well.
No porting; your number is locked to your carrier.

Wireless Microwave Dish

ProsCons
Cheaper data; since you are on a post-paid plan and are typically buying more data, your cost per MB is lower.Set up costs; it is not cheap to have someone come to your apartment, mount a dish and run a cable into your living room.
Transparent cost; you decide on a monthly cost and that’s what you pay.Expensive gear; the gear the ISP provides to you is not cheap and getting a decent router that has data usage logs and strong wifi is usually not cheap.
Convenience; set up a direct debit and not worry about it.Weather affected; heavy rain will reduce or stop your dishes ability to maintain a line of sight with the repeater station
Transparent data usage; you can get routers these days that will tell you what your total monthly data usage is. Since all your devices are connected to the same router, you can accurately compare your actual data usage to your ISPs claimed usage.Lower speed; since there is limited bandwidth in an out of PNG, the cost to get a dedicated line is high. See my post on PNG bandwidth for more info.

Digicel, Telikom PNG and bmobile-Vodafone are the SIM providers, most others use dish like Datec, Speedcast, Lightspeed and Digitec.

Telikom was the cheapest SIM data by a long shot until recently, it shows.

What is the typical cost of the internet in POM?

Either way you look at it, you’re going to be sad.

Even spread from K100 all the way up to K1000. K350 seems to be the sweet spot.

4G SIMs (recommendation below)

Telikom PNG

Cost (K)160135180260370
Data (MB)60005000700010000150000
Days14+1421213030
K per MB0.02670.0270.02570.0260.0246

Telikom PNG

If you want bulk data with minimal effort, Telikom still wins with their K370 15GB bundle. go with Digicel. Whilst they recently drastically raised their prices, as did bmobile, they are still the cheapest on average. I’ve been using Telikom for my mobile carrier for over 2 years and have learnt to live with drastically varying speeds, no coverage outside city limits, but blazing fast data when it’s working well and not congested (usually between 17:00-22:00).

Average happiness: 4.1/10
Most common complaint: Dropouts and data disappearing

bmobile

Cost (K)4060110150285
Data (MB)100015003500500010000
Days3030303030
K per MB0.040.040.03140.030.0285

bmobile

They are only marginally more expensive as Telikom. They will be taking all of Telikom’s mobile customers soon under an agreement with their owners, KTH.

Happiness: 3 respondents with 1, 4 and 8. Hard to tell.

Digicel

Cost (K)3568110230450
Data (MB)40012005000600013000
Days3030303030
K per MB0.08750.05670.0220.03830.0346

Digicel

Right now, Digicel is the best value with their promotion of 2.5+2.5GB plan for K110 20GB plan for K230. This is ridiculous value compared to all other providers. Ensure you carefully track your usage so it matches up with their recorded usage. Be warned that since Digicel has the lion’s share of customers they are prone to congestion. Don’t expect great speeds during popular browsing times, 17:00-22:00.

Average happiness rating: 4.1/10
Most common complaint: Slow speeds

Even cheaper data…

If you need to update apps or do some big downloads, Telikom and Digicel offer super cheap night plans. Why? ISPs pay for bandwidth, not data. At night when everyone is asleep their bandwidth is not being used. Off peak or night plans are a way to incentivise users to use their connections when everyone else isn’t.

4G Night Plans

 TelikomDigicel
Cost (K)186
Data (MB)40001200
Time22:00-06:0012:00-05:00
K per MB0.00450.005

Wireless Dish Plans (recommendation below)

Datec

Shaped speeds are in Kbps. Off peak speeds are 6Mbps down and 1Mbps up. Uploads not counted. Peak hours are 08:00-16:00 Mon-Fri only.

I was with Datec for about 2 years on their Home Married Medium with 4 people sharing the connection. Datec uses PNG DataCo infrastructure (same as Telikom and bmobile) and have their office near Waigani. They were usually pretty good to deal with and, when their email servers were working, they responded pretty well when I had issues. I’ve covered them in detail in past articles and not much has changed.

Their setup fee is approx K1500 last time I checked.

Average happiness score: 4.1/10
Most common complaint: Slow
Editors note: I would be very interested to know if these respondents were talking about on-peak speeds on Married plans as I always had great speeds off-peak, 6Mbps, and 384Kbps or less on-peak is obviously going to be slow. If you are with Datec and your internet is slow after 18:00 on weekdays, call up and change your plan! The old unlimited plans are extremely slow and you should change to plans in the above image.

Lightspeed

I have been with Lightspeed for a few weeks now and so far so good. They have their own O3b earth station and have just purchased some of the new O3b bandwidth that DataCo have started selling. O3b is a company that provides satellite internet that, when it works well, offers low latency internet. It’s not cheap but it’s a decent alternative for when there is no decent undersea cabling available for a region.

If we look at their 50GB 2Mbps down/1Mpbs 1:1 contention plan for K700, you are getting your own 2Mbps connection which is manageable for most; link. That price is approx half the cost of the cheapest 4G data option (K0.014 per MB). Technically it is cheaper than Datec (I only count off peak data) but Datec is 3 times faster (off-peak only).

Average customer happiness: 6.7
Most common complaint: Regular dropouts

Speedcast

Speedcast have had a name for the fastest, most reliable and most expensive internet in Port Moresby for a while. They also have their own O3b earth station as well however their target market is remote sites such as mines; they are very good at getting signals across tough terrain. They typically don’t offer residential plans, mainly businesses and also prefer wiring up an entire apartment block instead of individual customers.

Speedcast only had 2 respondents which were a 1 and a 9 in happiness. Go figure.

Digitec

Don’t know much about these guys but the 3 respondents were paying on average K1000 per month for about 20GB and less than 1Mbps. All 3 complained about constant dropouts.

Emstret

Update: This flyer was shown to me after this article was published…

Home 1Mbps and SME 2Mbps download, both with 4:1 contention. “Fair Use policy” applies to downloads under “unlimited access”.

I’m informed that Emstret use VSAT for their connection (Kacific Broadband) which is a dish pointing up to a geostationary satellite. VSAT is usually more reliable than O3b however it has a large latency which means no online gaming. 4:1 contention means you are sharing a 1Mbps connection with 3 other people. 0.25Mbps is incredibly slow so make sure you know what you are signing up for with those sort of speeds and latency.

I have since been shown this flyer for Emstret, notice the installation fee difference!

Others

There are a few other providers but it’s not easy finding pricing on their sites and not many of them are not keen to give me set prices as every job is different and bandwidth costs change frequently (Kinect I am looking at you).

I’m not going to cover them here unless I get some clear plan info sent to me. You can read about the others in my 2017 article and contact them directly for prices. Please give me feedback when you get quotes or if you use them. If you own an ISP, I am always happy to include your plans and pricing in detail here, more competition is better!

Who’s best?

On paper I think Lightspeed have it. I am a big fan of set and forget internet and would not want to try and manage 4G data bundles for home use. Yes a couple of thousand kina is a lot of money for installation but if you are here for over 2 years, average it out. 2Mpbs is not amazing but I have been watching YouTube, video calling the parents and most websites load quick enough. The Lightspeed team have been very flexible with my requirements and been offering good support. I had an outage last Wednesday night at 9pm and I sent a message to the managing director to ask about it. He had the problem solved within half an hour.

Whoever you decide to go with, tell them you did so after reading an online review of PNG ISPs so they know that their customers are informed and know what their options are. More information, more competition, more value!

Other data from the survey…

Colour me surprised!

10-20GB a month seems to be what most people can afford right now.

This one was a mess as so many people wrote variants of “don’t know” I cbf tidying it up. Let’s just say 1Mbps wins.

Digicel must have it due to reliability of O3b compared to DataCo. Will be interesting to see how this changes as the new O3b comes online.

You heard them ISPs! K500 for 5Mpbs unlimited NOW!

And finally, data theft. I still maintain that majority of expats don’t know how to manage background data! Track your data using third party apps!

 

4 responses so far.

  1. Eo Kila says:

    I really appreciate the amount of time it took you to put this very informative article so it benefits all and also helps everyone decide on who provides the residental internet in PNG.

    I also wounder what figures you would get if it was done for PNG as a whole.

    Otherwise, big salute for the information provided.

    I live in the NGI region and would be interested to know if the ISP you listed do provide their services apart from Telikom and Digicel.

    I look forward for the 2019 edition.

    • Simon says:

      Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately information for outside PNG is too much work to gather. Most of info I have is from meeting people and having them send me details direct. A lot of the rural ISPs prefer to not publicise their rates as they know when the Australian Government asks for a quote they can charge X amount and when a local library asks for a quote they can charge Y amount. That is my skeptical view but in a more honest world, it is because most ISPs outside Port Moresby need to set up very expensive infrastructure for each customer. It is too hard for them to list a certain price online as each type of setup has different operating costs that need to be taken into account.

  2. Ruth James (Allied Learning) says:

    Hi and thank you for your commitment to compiling this helpful data.

    I am an English teacher from Australia and am attempting to provide online English lessons to students of all ages in Papua New Guinea.

    In your research, have you encountered data usage for online education or is this statistic included in your online gaming data?

    I understand it would come into fixed-line internet or satellite/microwave dish rather than sim as lessons are typically 5 hours a day for either 2 or 5 days at a time.

    Thank you.

    • Simon says:

      Not sure when it will actually happen but I have heard that the PNG Govt is keen to get free internet into schools as soon as possible. Realistically this will only happen when the Coral Sea Cable System is connected and operational early 2020 as internet bandwidth is far to expensive at the moment. With the new cable and the Aus/NZ/Jap/US Electrification/Fibre program beginning, the next 5-10 years will see big changes.
      It would be unreasonable for a school to currently pay for 5 hours a day of streaming video at the moment, way too much data. A 2Mbps down 1 Mbps up connection speed (fixed, SIM or dish) should be enough for them to stream video but an unlimited data plan would be thousands of dollars a month.

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